Unknown Pleasures

The title of one of my favourite (and iconic) albums is Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division. The title probably comes from Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. I have (honestly) tried to read it, but it is a long novel in seven volumes known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the episode of the madeleine. The narrator begins by noting, For a long time, I went to bed early. He comments on the way sleep seems to alter one’s surroundings, and the way habit makes one indifferent to them. As a neuroscience trainer, I love the idea of getting less sleep.

Listen to the silence, let it ring on. Eyes, dark grey lenses frightened of the sun. We would have a fine time living in the night, Left to blind destruction, Waiting for our sight. – Transmission (Joy Division)

Pleasure is usually describes as the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria. In psychology, the pleasure principle describes pleasure as a positive feedback mechanism, motivating the organism to recreate in the future the situation which it has just found pleasurable. According to this theory, organisms are similarly motivated to avoid situations that have caused pain in the past. And then punk came along and I was inspired to know more.

Joy Division were formed in Salford, Greater Manchester in 1976 during the first wave of punk rock. Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook had separately attended the legendary Sex Pistols show at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976, and both embraced that group’s simplicity, speed and aggression. In fact according to legend every one of the 200 people there formed a band. Ian Curtis, who Sumner and Hook already knew, applied and, without having to audition, was taken on.

In 1979 I bought this amazing album I went that year so see them play live at West Runton Pavilion (North Norfolk) and met with Ian Curtis . I loved him and what Jon Savage described their music as, a definitive Northern Gothic statement: guilt-ridden, romantic, claustrophobic. His life is brought to many people’s attention in the stunning film Control.Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, committed suicide on 18 May 1980, on the eve of Joy Division’s first North American tour, resulting in the band’s dissolution and the subsequent formation of New Order.

The cover of the Unknown Pleasures album stimulated my love of Astronomy, Pulsars and the Universe (I still have the T shirt).The cover of their 1979 debut album is probably more well known than the album or band themselves. Famed cover art designer Peter Saville is credited with designing the cover, but as the myth goes it shows a series of radio frequency periods from the first pulsar discovered.I was studying brain science at the time and using complex mathematics like Fourier analysis to decode the data of action potential in nerve transmission. I thought the image on the cover (and it is largely cited correctly) as depicting the first pulsar discovered (CP 1919). In fact it’s not the first isolated plot of that pulsar, which was made in 1967. That honour goes to Jocelyn Bell Burnell from the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory in Cambridge, whom I was very lucky to meet when my father introduced (as head of medical research) in Cambridge.

Radio pulsars are neutron stars, huge, spinning ‘nuclei’ that contain some 1057 protons and neutrons. The large clump of nuclear matter, which has a mass about equal to that of the sun, is compressed into a sphere with a radius on the order of 10 kilometers. Consequently, the density of the star is enormous, slightly greater than the density of ordinary nuclear matter, which is itself some 10 trillion times denser than a lead brick. Currents of protons and electrons moving within the star generate a magnetic field. As the star rotates, a radio beacon, ignited by the combined effect of the magnetic field and the rotation, emanates from it and sweeps periodically through the surrounding space, rather like a lighthouse beam. Once per revolution the beacon cuts past the earth, giving rise to the beeping detected by radio telescopes.

Peter Saville, who had previously designed posters for Manchester’s Factory club in 1978, designed the cover of the album. Saville reversed the image from black-on-white to white-on-black and printed it on textured card for the original version of the album. The image itself according to Scientific American writer Jen Christiansen was by Harold D. Craft, Jr., was a graduate student at Cornell University in the early 70s, working with cosmic data a the massive Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico. You can read Christiansen’s account of her investigation, and listen to her interviews with Craft at Scientific American. He and his colleagues were experimenting with some of the first digital measurements of radio waves from pulsars (collapsed stars that flash like lighthouses), using radar equipment at the observatory. By chance, Craft ended up writing the computer program that would produce this iconic image.

Unknown Pleasures’ cover was computer generated.

Craft said he had no idea that his image was being widely used on the cover of a famous record. “I went to the record store and, son of a gun, there it was. So I bought an album, and then there was a poster that [they] had of it, so I bought one of those too, just for no particular reason, except that it’s my image, and I ought to have a copy of it.”

Unknown Pleasures was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England between 1 and 17 April 1979, with Martin Hannett producing. Describing Hannett’s production techniques, Hook said,that Hannett was only as good as the material he had to work with, “We gave him great songs, and like a top chef, he added some salt and pepper and some herbs and served up the dish. But he needed our ingredients.”

The experience of pleasure is subjective and different individuals will experience different kinds and amounts of pleasure in the same situation. Many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying basic biological drives, such as eating, exercise, hygiene or sex. For real pleasure, try listening again to Unknown Pleasures again, now.

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio.

Be Amazing Every Day.

10 Rules for Better Office Politics

Nov 6 2014

Here is a new word for you or your office:Mudita.

‘D’ja ever clap when a waitress falls and drops a tray of glasses?’ and ‘Don’tcha feel all warm and cozy, watching people out in the rain?” That’s schadenfreude.

These lines are taken from Avenue Q, the musical based on Sesame Street; there is a brilliant song called (funnily enough)schadenfreudeMost people have heard of the term schadenfreude, where pleasure is derived from the misfortunes of others. Some say it is a global office sport. A New York Times article cited a number of scientific studies which it is defined as, ‘delighting in others’ misfortune’. Many such studies are based on social comparison theory; the idea that when people around us have bad luck, we look better to ourselves.

There is another way to find happiness – being able to be happy for someone else’s success. It has a name too:Mudita. Gaining pleasure in life illuminates our own feelings about success and happiness and also the possibilities of our own success and happiness. Some would call this altruistic (unselfish) joy. It is amazing and could revolutionise your office.

Have you ever felt upset for no reason at all when a friend achieves something you have always wanted? If someone else’s happiness or achievements bother you, even when it has nothing to do with you, you’re probably experiencing jealousy. In one way or another, virtually everybody dreams of standing out, being admired, acclaimed—even, well, applauded. To be viewed and to view ourselves, as merely average or adequate really doesn’t do very much for us, or rather, our ego. This may be all the more so because we live in a meritorious society that refuses to celebrate or lavish praise on individuals unless they’re judged exceptional.

This circumstance explains why we may experience a certain envy when we hear drums bang for someone else. Secretly, we long to hear a drum roll beating for us. Although we might be jealous of someone’s accomplishments, we may have a different yet very equal set of achievements. Similarly, we might find happiness and success in different roads that can never be compared, but are still equally as important. We can be jealous of somebody’s life and admire them at the same time. We can be happy for them without compromising our own happiness.

We can still reach higher and higher whilst helping others achieve their dreams too. Jealousy is inevitable but will blind you and force you to spend hours fantasising about circumstances that’ll never materialise. You’re still going to be the same person you are now even after whiling away hours or days in jealous thoughts and ideas. Understanding how to stop being jealous can help you control your own life and live better.

Which makes your own recognition all the more important. More often than not, people don’t—or won’t—acknowledge you for your contributions and accomplishments. Which may seem a little strange since almost all of us have hopes for such recognition—one reason, perhaps, that the expression fishing for compliments is so well-known. But though it might seem intuitive that people would be more than willing to give what they would greatly appreciate getting themselves, this typically isn’t the case. When complimented, we’re likely to glow internally. Praise from others whose authority we respect serves to verify our sense of inner worth. Such external approval is especially important for those still plagued by self-doubt. If someone does tale the time to be positive and compliments you, remember to say, ‘Thank you. I appreciate that.

10 Rules for Office Mudita

  1. Start by becoming aware. It is helpful to examine the consequences of jealousy and envy. Be honest with yourself when you notice your thoughts and feelings heading down a negative path. Usually jealousy comes from fear. What are you afraid of? Almost always, jealousy stems from a deep fear that you may never achieve the same thing. The more you are jealous, the more you are convincing yourself that you will be no good. Turn that jealousy into determination, without ever giving up and you will definitely stop being jealous all the time.
  2. Look for success in others. When you see another person’s win as a loss for you, you pave the way for discouragement and resentment to set in. Instead allow other people’s success to ignite hope for the success coming in your time of harvest.
  3. Stop comparing yourself. In this world where everyone’s lives are open for all to see through social networks, it’s easy to constantly compare yourself with your peers and competitors. In the office this canlead to believe that youa re not as good as someone else. This triggers theschadenfreude impulses.
  4. Your own achievements matter. Celebrate your own achievements, however small they may be. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t hate someone else because they’re famous or earning a lot more than you are. At some point, they were in the same place as you.
  5. Make more opportunities to be happy. Rejoicing with others creates an opportunity to multiply the good times you get to celebrate. By seizing every chance to sincerely congratulate other’s on their success, you are creating an atmosphere for others to be willing to celebrate your successes.
  6. Passion for life. Love yourself and respect your own life. If you’re not happy, choose a new career path that you love. When you respect yourself, you won’t get jealous anymore. You may be envious, but not jealous because you believe in your own capabilities.
  7. Start with the people you love. It might be difficult to get instantly excited about the lives of strangers. However, you can start by focusing on the people closest to you. For example, cheer with enthusiasm when your cousin wins an award, your friend gets a promotion, or a BNI colleague successfully closes a deal
  8. Stop wishing you were someone else. You are not. You will not become someone else with wishful thinking. Unless you consciously work towards achieving more, you’ll spend the rest of your life bitter and fragile because your happiness doesn’t come from your own success, but from watching someone else’s downfall.
  9. Shine a spotlight on someone else. Keep in touch with what is going on in the lives of the people around you. Others may be bashful about mentioning their own victories but still appreciate having their efforts recognised. Super power time.
  10. Be Amazing Every Day. Be confident and pursue your own dreams. Jealousy is a way of accepting failure. Why are you jealous? Don’t you think you are capable of achieving the same pleasures as the object of your jealousy some day? Jealousy is your mind’s subconscious way of giving up and whining about how unfair life is. Don’t succumb to it. Instead, go out there and prove that you are better. Be Amazing Every Day.

So what do you do when you see someone thriving with the opportunities, recognition, clients and wins that you want for your life or business? Mudita! You can learn to celebrate other people’s success. If you master generating genuine happiness for other people, not only will you find a cure for the envy, which can sabotage your success, but there are additional benefits as well. The words of the Buddha are powerful reminder of the power of Mudita,

Here, O, Monks, a disciple let’s his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of unselfish joy, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, everywhere and equally, he continues to pervade with a heart of unselfish joy, abundant, grown great, measureless, without hostility or ill-will.

Be Amazing Every Day